What are you doing to make your child love food?
Tips for the little ones at home to develop a proper relationship with food.
Internalizing healthy eating dynamics as early as childhood is very important both to avoid malnutrition and to avoid developing Eating Disorders in adolescence and young adulthood in general.
Let's see several advices to achieve it from our role as parents.
Let's start with the basics: what is feeding?
The act of feeding ourselves goes beyond a mere physiological need.It is a true symbol of how we face life, especially through the first significant figure with whom we establish an important bond: our mother.
At birth she feeds us through her breast, and she is the one who usually feeds us in our first years, eating is the main act that connects us with life, nourishes us and allows us to be alive.
On the other hand, it becomes a social act that unites us with other loved ones..
To be more precise, we could analyze in more detail the function of the act of feeding: do we eat life through food, how do we do it: energetically, with enjoyment, roughly, with eagerness?
The mouth also allows us to perform many other actions, such as speaking or expressing ourselves, and it is a key part of our appearance, of what we show to others.
Is our society sick?
Today's society continues to demand from us (despite the change of perspective) a certain image and specific measures.The posturing on social networks is increasingly unhealthy and a sector of adolescents do not identify themselves with anything but their own photos, running the risk of getting confused in them, thus losing sight of their personal identity.
In short, they perceive themselves as others do, according to the evaluations they make of them, leaving their self-concept in the hands of outsiders, which is very dangerousThey have no control over their lives, resulting in a fragile ego and a malleable psyche. Everything is reduced to a number of "likes".
If we move to the Internet environment we will find content in digital media that promotes eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, being very significant the existence of web pages that encourage potentially harmful practices for health aimed at reducing the number of calories eaten and to reach measures below what could be described as healthy.
Tactics such as spraying food with detergent to lead to a feeling of disgust, the use of laxatives, guidelines for self-harm and avoiding the sensation of hunger or ways of hiding certain body signals from family members are encouraged. They also offer tables of body measurements that are unrealistic and unhealthy, and pressure children and adolescents to pressure children and adolescents to identify inevitably with a certain appearance and lifestyle, and encourage self-punishment.They also encourage self-punishment and poor self-esteem.
The great paradox is that these types of platforms cannot be shut down, since they supposedly do not break the law, fortunately that is changing and an example of this is the following: in the month of March 2019 a Decree Law was passed in Catalonia that acts against those companies or platforms that make apology of anorexia and bulimia in social networks and Internet..
Such platforms could be sanctioned, if, despite having knowledge of such content on their platforms, they did not take action to remove it.
In fact, on December 18, 2019, the following news was published: the Irish company Automatic Inc was fined 85,000 euros for making apology of anorexia and for not having adequately attended to the previous requirements of the Generalitat.
What are anorexia and bulimia?
The two most common Eating Disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia..
While the former is a severe pathology characterized by an irrepressible fear of weight gain and the development of actions aimed at excessive weight loss, the latter (which is also initiated by food restriction) consists of the manifestation of binge eating and purgative behaviors aimed at compensating for possible weight gain.
How does the family influence the development of these disorders?
Each family is a different system, it is not clear if the relationships between its members are the origin of the disorder, however, we can assure that a series of common patterns have been identified that usually appear in those families with members with these pathologies.
In the case of anorexia, these are usually families characterized by overprotection, involvement of the children in parental conflicts, amalgamated relationships, avoidance of conflict and rigidity in accepting change.In the case of anorexia, relationships are amalgamated, conflict is avoided and there is rigidity when it comes to accepting changes.
In the case of bulimia, there is an excessive interest in academic and work achievements to the detriment of other objectives such as leisure, moral or intellectual issues, and the need to be aware of the importance of the child's own personal and family life.In the case of bulimia, there is an excessive interest in academic and work achievements to the detriment of other objectives such as leisure, moral or intellectual issues, appearance and what people will say, the parents have an emotional overflow in the form of anguish that at first glance may seem disinterested in the illness of the member, in particular the father is usually handled with negligence and lack of involvement, while the mother tends to blame the sick daughter for the problem.
This happens to families because of their inability to handle stressful situationsIn this type of family, their low tolerance to frustration, lack of cohesion and little emotional connection that contrasts with the absence of privacy of both belongings and spaces that are shared without prior permission, mistakes (even the smallest) are not tolerated in this type of family.
The family therapy has demonstrated to be of great utility in the treatment of these pathologies.
What can we do for our children from an early age?
Here you will find several tips to keep in mind to achieve it.
1. Not to give a negative connotation to the moments of the meal.
It should not be a power struggleIt is important to emphasize the positive aspects of the experience.
2. Avoid rewarding or punishing with food.
The act of eating should be pleasurable and be framed in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. We must strive to create a space of calm and positivism, without shouting or arguments..
On the other hand, forcing the child to eat a food by force can provoke rejection towards it.
Do not watch TV or use other devices during meals 4.
It is important to to be aware of the act of eating. Let's involve children in the preparation of simple meals, even if they stain more than necessary.
4. Educate about food
Let's take them to the market and teach them the names and characteristics of the food.. In addition, it is important that we educate them about a healthy diet and healthy habits. The goal is that they develop a good relationship with food, that they come to love it.
5. Harness the potential of creativity
It is more educational to try to get them to try different foods by using creativity, making them more palatable and being flexible with their preferences.If we are realistic, no one likes absolutely all foods, although it is important that they maintain a receptive attitude to new flavors and textures.
With the little ones we can approach the act of eating in a playful and imaginative way as long as we focus on the food.
6. Boost their self-esteem
Cultivate a good self-esteem in them, emphasizing their personal qualities.We should emphasize their personal qualities rather than their physical ones.
We must be careful with comments about their physical appearance ("I've seen that you are getting fat") especially during puberty and adolescence, stages in which image is essential for their self-esteem.
In short and as always, the emotional education of our children is the most powerful weapon we have to transmit strength and values that allow them to face the negative messages of our society and their own insecurities.
If we treat them with respect and dedication, if we maintain good communication with them, they will become mature and responsible adults. And let's not forget that we are always their role model.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)